Only Jonathan the son of Asahel and Jahaziah the son of Tikvah were employed about this matter: and Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite helped them.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Ezra 10:15. Only Jonathan and Jahaziah were employed — To take care that the business should be executed in the manner proposed, that the officers and delinquents of every city should come successively, in convenient time and order, as these should appoint, to keep an exact account of the whole transaction, and of the names of the cities and persons whose causes were despatched; to give notice to others to come in their turns; and to prepare the business for the hearing of the judges. These two were priests, as their helpers were Levites, that so they might inform the persons concerned, in any matter of doubt.Ezra 10:16.
and Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite helped them; assisted them in this work; the other two perhaps were priests, and both these Levites; and these four were the only persons appointed over this matter, as the phrase in the preceding clause may signify; though Jarchi interprets it to a quite contrary sense, that they were the only persons that opposed and objected to it; and so Dr. Lightfoot (r) understands it, and renders it, "stood against this matter"; in which they were seconded by the two Levites, and the sense is very probable.Only Jonathan the son of Asahel and Jahaziah the son of Tikvah were employed about this matter: and Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite helped them.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)15. Slight opposition.
Only Jonathan the son of Asahel and Jahaziah the son of Tikvah were employed about this matter] R.V. stood up against (Marg. Or, were appointed over) this matter.
The word ‘only’, the English reader should take notice, is not used in the sense of ‘alone’, but as an adversative, ‘notwithstanding’, ‘nevertheless’. It would therefore naturally introduce the mention of an exception or of an opposition.
There are two views as to the correct rendering of the verse. The point of difference lies in the Hebrew words variously rendered ‘were appointed over’ and ‘stood up against’.—(1) The rendering of the A.V. ‘were employed about’, though less accurate, agrees with that of the R.V. margin ‘were appointed over’.—The Hebrew literally translated is ‘stood over’; (a) it is noticeable that this verb to ‘stand’ is the same as that used in the previous Ezra 10:12 ‘Let now our rulers be appointed (Heb. stand)’. If there were no other point to be considered, it would seem most natural that the narrative should be resumed with the same verb as had just occurred in a reported speech and with the repetition of the phrase ‘about this matter’ (Ezra 9:15). (b) After the people’s declaration, it was to be expected that the names of some of the commission would be recorded. (c) The use of the adversative may betaken to imply a departure from the first proposal of a commission. (d) The mention of Meshullam and Shabbethai, who ‘helped’, seems to suggest cooperation in the execution of, not in the opposition to, the scheme. (2) The rendering of the R.V. ‘stood up against’ has greater probability. (a) It accounts for the use of the adversative ‘only’. (b) The use of the words to ‘stand over or against’ in a hostile sense is supported by 1 Chronicles 21:1; 2 Chronicles 20:23; Daniel 8:25; Daniel 11:14. (c) Except for this verse we should have no record of any of the opposition, which, considering the extreme severity of the measures, would be almost inevitable. It is indeed a reasonable objection that the mention of the opposition is very awkwardly inserted between the people’s declaration and the statement (in Ezra 10:16) of their action. But this objection applies to the verse (15) as a whole rather than to the special interpretation of it, and, as a matter of fact, the abruptness of the insertion is due to the Compiler’s work, and is scarcely lessened by the alternative interpretation. Another objection, that the word ‘help’ used of Meshullam and Shabbethai would not naturally express their support of an opposition, can only be partially admitted. It is true that, as only four opponents are mentioned by name, they might much more easily have been grouped together, unless there was some special reason for separating them. But whatever special reason there was for separating the pairs of names, would apply equally well, whether the individuals were said to carry out or to oppose the scheme. This objection therefore like the other is equally well raised against any explanation of the verse; it does not affect the selection to be made between the two renderings.
Accepting the rendering of the R.V., we need not suppose that these four individuals were the only opponents of Ezra’s policy. They are here mentioned as the leaders of the opposition, and there is every reason to suppose that their opinions must have been shared by very many.
and Meshullam] Possibly the same as the Meshullam mentioned in Ezra 10:29. If so, we may suppose from Ezra 10:19 that he along with the others who had similarly offended ‘gave his hand’ that he would put away his wife. Perhaps he had been convinced of the public necessity for the action, which for private reasons he felt obliged to condemn. This conflict of feeling might account for his being described as only ‘helping’ the opponents.
Shabbethai the Levite] This name does not occur in 23 or 24 among the Levites who had offended. Shabbethai may have opposed for other reasons, either because members of his family were implicated, or because he considered the letter of the law to be strained by the adoption of the proposed measures. The opposition of a Levite deserved especial record.
helped them] As if their position were a subordinate one in the opposition. They supported, but did not head the movement, cf. 1 Kings 1:7 ‘they following Adonijah helped him’.Verse 15. - Only Jonathan... and Jaha-ziah... were employed about this matter. If this were the true meaning of the passage it would contradict the next verse, by which it appears that Ezra himself, together with several "chiefs of the fathers" - probably identical with the "rulers and elders" of ver. 14 - took the matter in hand, and were occupied with it for three months. The true meaning of the clause, however, is almost certainly that which was assumed in the preceding paragraph: "Only Jonathan and Jahaziah stood up against this matter," or "opposed" it (see 1 Chronicles 21:1; Daniel 8:25; Daniel 11:14, where the same expression has the sense of "oppose, resist"). Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite helped them. The "Meshullam" intended is perhaps the person of the name mentioned in ver. 29 as having married an idolatrous wife. The others seem not to have had any personal interest in thwarting Ezra and preventing the reform. SETTLEMENT OF THE WHOLE MATTER BY THE REPUDIATION OF THE STRANGE WIVES (vers. 16, 17). The opposition made did not delay the business more than a few days. The great assembly had been held on the twentieth day of the ninth month. On the first day of the tenth month, little more than a week later, the commission for examining into the matter met under the presidency of Ezra, and commenced proceedings. The method of proceeding suggested at the great meeting was no doubt followed. The case of each city was taken separately. Its male inhabitants of full age attended, and its "elders" and "judges" sat on the commission as assessors while the conjugal position of their townsfolk was being investigated. Where a "mixed marriage" was proved the wife was repudiated. In 112 cases the necessity of repudiation was made out to the satisfaction of the commission, and this number of wives was put away. Probably the entire number of cases adjudicated upon was very much greater, since the commission continued at work for three months, and probably sat on seventy-five different days, judging (we may presume) three or four cases a day. On the whole, the small extent to which the evil had prevailed is remarkable; for 112 mixed marriages in a population where the adult males were about 40,000 would give only one such marriage to three hundred or three hundred and fifty legitimate ones. Nevertheless, evils in a community are not to be judged simply by their prevalence. Great evils must be checked at once, even though they have not extended far, lest, if they spread at all widely, they become irremediable. Ezra is to be commended for having perceived the greatness of the peril, and for having taken prompt and decided measures to check it, without waiting till it had got to a head, and so become uncontrollable. Ezra 9:1. The assembled multitude sat there on the open space of the house of God, i.e., probably the open space (הרחוב) in front of the water-gate, Nehemiah 8:1, Nehemiah 8:3, Nehemiah 8:16, at the eastern or south-eastern side, before the temple court; see remarks on Nehemiah 8:1. "Trembling" because of this matter, the seriousness of which they might perceive from the heavy penalty attached to their non-appearance within three days, and "because of the rain." The ninth month, corresponding with our December, is in the cold rainy time of the year (comp. Ezra 10:13), "when the rain usually falls in torrents" (Robinson, Phys. Geog. p. 287).
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